Charlynne Pullen

Senior Research Fellow - Skills (secondment)


Lead on apprenticeships work focusing on standards and higher apprenticeships

Programme Manager Research

The Education and Training Foundation

Responsible for FE Workforce Data 


Charlynne Pullen is the Head of Workforce Data at the Education and Training Foundation and has recently been on secondment at the Institute for Public Policy Research working on apprenticeships and skills policy. Charlynne has worked in educational research and Further Education for over a decade, with roles at the National Foundation for Educational Research, the Learning and Skills Network, and Skillset. Prior to the Education and Training Foundation, Charlynne was the Research Manager at City and Guilds, and in that role commissioned 'How to Teach Vocational Education: A Theory of Vocational Pedagogy'. Charlynne was a local councillor in Islington from 2010-14, where she chaired the Education Committee, and is currently a governor at Milton Keynes College.

Young people lose out twice: over 25s get more places and many apprenticeships are poor quality

New apprenticeship programme needs to go further to benefit young people - IPPPublished Tue 16 Aug 2016

Young people lose out twice: over 25s get more places and many apprenticeships are poor quality

IPPR says that the government’s new apprenticeship system is not doing enough to alleviate youth unemployment – with young people losing out to older workers in the race to enrol on apprenticeships. And those who do get places are often not being given proper training.

IPPR’s report makes a number of recommendations including:

  • Tightening, not relaxing, apprenticeship standards;

  • Extending the apprenticeship levy to cover smaller employers;

  • A dedicated ‘pre-apprenticeship’ route for 16-18 year olds to ensure that young people are properly prepared to start a Level 3 apprenticeship;

  • Re-introducing a nationally recognised qualification as part of all apprenticeships;

  • Extending the deadline to deliver 3 million apprenticeships, to ensure the government focus on ‘quality not quantity’.


The report comes out as many young people are considering what to do next as A-level and GCSE results are published over the coming weeks. But IPPR says that the government’s desire to hit a target of 3 million apprenticeship starts by the end of the parliament in 2020, has led it to prioritise quantity over quality and focus on adult apprenticeships which are easier to deliver.

Charlynne Pullen, IPPR Senior Research Fellow, said:

“Apprenticeships should be a key route for young people to move into work. But not enough young people are benefiting from the government’s apprenticeship programme – and this situation could get worse in the coming years. 

“Training existing staff in what they already know isn’t what the public think of as an apprenticeship. There is a real risk of the new apprenticeship system repeating many of the same mistakes as the previous system that it is replacing.”

New analysis from IPPR shows that while there was a 30 per cent increase in the total number of apprenticeships between 2010/11 and 2014/15, the number of apprenticeships going to 17 and 18 year olds actually fell by 8,000 over the same period.

While reforms introduced by the coalition government in 2012 have helped to rectify part of the problem, last year the ‘over 25s’ age group still made up the largest group of apprentices, securing over 360,000 places in total.

The report warns that new ‘light-touch regulation’ of apprenticeship standards, coupled with the introduction of an apprenticeship levy, could encourage large employers in sectors such as retail to simply rebrand existing workplace training as apprenticeships in order to access state subsidies.

This means that firms will have an incentive to enrol existing adult employees onto apprenticeships – rather than create new roles to train up the next generation of workers. In 2014 64% of apprentices were ‘internal recruits’ as opposed to new employees.

Jonathan Clifton, IPPR’s Associate Director for Public Services, said: 

“England is in danger of introducing an apprenticeship system that would work well in the economy of the 1960s, but is not fit for a 21st-century workforce. 

“We need to create an apprenticeship system that works in a jobs market that is increasingly characterised by small firms, service sector jobs and flexible working

“The government have made a number of steps in the right direction – including introducing an apprenticeship levy - but there is more work to be done to ensure that all young people have access to high quality ‘earning and learning’ routes”. 

The report argues that the decision to ditch a requirement for apprenticeships to contain a nationally recognised qualification could harm young people, who will need transferable qualifications in an increasingly flexible jobs market.

The IPPR report also says that:

  • The government’s new apprenticeship system will work effectively in large employers who have a commitment to high quality technical training. But it will not deliver for the growing number of smaller firms and those working in the service sector.

  • Most apprentices already have qualifications at the level of their apprenticeship, meaning they are not progressing up the skills levels: 80% of adults starting a level 2 apprenticeship already hold a full level 2 qualification.

  • The government’s proposed apprenticeship levy will only apply to 2% of employers, meaning that most firms will not have an added incentive to offer apprenticeships.

  • The government’s target to create 3 million apprenticeships will encourage as many starts as possible, which could see apprentices being placed on inappropriate levels.

  • The new apprenticeship standards are not being properly regulated – and vary in quality between sectors.


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  1. The new report England’s Apprenticeships will be launched on Tuesday 16th August, at 00:01, on this link:

  2. JPMorgan Chase has supported today’s report as part of its New Skills at Work programme, which aims to identify strategies and support data-driven solutions that help improve labour market infrastructure and develop the skilled workforce globally.

  3. This report is also part of IPPR’s New Skills At Work programme. This joint IPPR–JPMorgan Chase initiative is bringing together and mobilising the best policymakers, business leaders, academics and civil society organisations across Europe to develop new solutions for the workforce challenges of the future. For more information see:

  4. The report examines apprenticeship participation by age group:

England’s apprenticeships: Assessing the new system Charlynne Pullen, Jonathan Clifton

This briefing paper reviews the government's new apprenticeship system for England – why reform was needed, how well the new system will work, concerns about its effects, and its implications for policy. It also recommends how the incoming regime could be better adapted to our 21st century economy, and reverse the 30-year decline in the youth labour market.

The government is in the process of introducing a new apprenticeship system for England, which will be phased in over the coming years. The new system is intended to be more ‘employer-led’, and takes its inspiration from the medieval notion that employers should set the standards for trainees entering their profession.

We support the desire to create a strong apprenticeship system. Over the last 30 years there has been a decline in the youth labour market, which has made it harder for young people to transition from full-time education into work. Many English firms have also failed to invest in the skills of their workforce or raise productivity. An expansion of high-quality apprenticeships could help to address all of these problems, and open up more ‘earning and learning’ routes for young people.

However, current apprenticeship policies are in danger of failing to achieve the government’s desired aims.

The government is handing more responsibility to employers for funding, designing, buying and delivering apprenticeships, while at the same time removing the requirement that they include a nationally recognised qualification. In addition to introducing this new apprenticeship system, the government is trying to oversee a rapid expansion of the programme in order to meet its self-imposed target of delivering 3 million apprenticeship starts by the end of the parliament.

We are concerned that these changes will provide insufficient oversight of the content and delivery of these new apprenticeships. While the new system might work well in sectors where there are large employers with a commitment to training the ‘next generation’ of their workforce, they will not help to improve the skills base in many other parts of the jobs market that are characterised by smaller employers, low-skilled jobs, or less traditional sectors which don’t have a shared sense of ‘occupational identity’ (such as retail). Given that these characteristics apply to a growing share of the jobs market, this is a big cause for concern. England is in danger of introducing an apprenticeship system that would work well in the economy of the 1960s, but is not fit for a 21st-century workforce.



We have identified four areas that are of particular concern.

  • Small and medium-sized employers may not offer enough apprenticeships. The new system will place an increased burden on small and medium-sized employers in terms of administering apprenticeships, while continuing to require many of them to make a financial contribution to the cost. There is therefore a risk that the majority of employers will not engage in the programme.

  • A market that delivers the cheapest possible apprenticeship for the largest group of people could develop in some sectors. This is because training providers may compete on the basis of price, not quality, to offer apprenticeships to employers who are keen to recoup their apprenticeship levy, but do not have a desire to improve their skills base. This would result in poor-quality and job-specific training being provided, rather than the high-quality training that helps young people enter a wider profession or occupation.

  • There will be little additional training introduced as a result of the system. Some employers (especially those operating a ‘low pay, low skill’ business model) could re-badge existing staff training as apprenticeships, in order to secure government money or ‘recoup’ their apprenticeship levy. This means there will be little additional training and skills development being delivered as a result of the new system, and it could devalue the apprenticeship ‘brand’ more widely.

  • The government’s target to create 3 million apprenticeships will encourage as many starts as possible, which could see apprentices being placed on inappropriate levels. The new standards may not create a clear pathway for apprentices to progress into higher-level study. This is a particular problem for young people who complete level 2 courses between the ages of 16 and 19, but who are not properly prerared to move on to a level 3 apprenticeship.


The concerns outlined above raise a series of policy implications.

  • The government should consider extending the levy to cover smaller employers, and should investigate ways to reduce the administrative burden on employers.

  • The government should restrict apprenticeships to those sectors in which apprenticeships can add real value. In line with the Sainsbury Review (ITEC 2016), we agree that there should be 15 technical routes, restricted to skilled occupations in which there is a substantial requirement for technical knowledge and practical skills. The government should also consider (re)introducing a more formal qualification element to apprenticeships.

  • The government should tighten up the regulation of the new apprenticeship standards, in line with a strengthened Institute of Apprenticeships, and a single common framework of technical standards, as proposed by the Sainsbury Review (ibid).

  • The government should encourage the growth of apprenticeships at level 3 and above, with the ultimate aim of all apprenticeships being delivered at these levels. In order for this to be successful, it must also create a more clearly defined ‘pre-apprenticeship’ route at level 2, to ensure that young people can progress into an apprenticeship.